Mayor-elect Annise Parker today announced the three co-chairs of her transition team and said she would immediately turn her focus to departmental shake ups in the city’s police and housing departments and Metro , as promised on the campaign trail.
“The blessing of local government is that it can never stop,” Parker said, noting that she would work “hands-on” with policing issues while delegating other areas to eight committees that will be comprised of volunteers.
The committees will focus on Metro, housing department funding, contracts and personnel, relationships with other governments, neighborhood protection, permitting efficiency, public works, density and development ordinances and minority contracting.
While the transition leaders were entirely composed of strong campaign backers, each also comes to the effort with experience in the areas in which they will focus.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, one of the only area political heavyweights to endorse Parker, will lead efforts on intergovernmental relations. Coleman also has been involved in community housing issues in some of the city’s tax increment reinvestment zones.
Gilbert Garcia, managing partner of an asset management firm and chair of Parker’s campaign, sits on the city’s municipal pension board and can attend to budgetary matters.
Nancy Kinder, a Republican philanthropist who played a pivotal role in the creation of Discovery Green Park, will focus on quality of life issues. Kinder, a fund-raiser for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign to unseat Gov. Rick Perry and wife of billionaire pipeline mogul Rich Kinder, also was a major campaign donor.
“They are there to help me cast the net widely,” Parker said.
There is not a “short list” of potential replacements for Police Chief Harold Hurtt, she said, before adding: “I will be, I hope, meeting with Chief Hurtt before he leaves.”
Hurtt, who donated to Parker opponent Gene Locke, also has indicated he plans to meet with her before he departs Dec. 30.
During the campaign, Parker pledged to replace Hurtt and “take apart” the police department. She has said recently that those plans will include bringing a decentralized focus to policing that may employ different strategies that vary by neighborhood.
As she did immediately after election, Parker called on volunteers to be involved in improving the city, a strategy that could bring some of the power of the more than 2,000 people who helped with her campaign to bear on her key initiatives.
“There is no exclusion, only inclusion, in this transition,” Coleman said.
A surprise in the news conference came when Parker invoked the Ashby High Rise controversy when she said her team would examine whether tighter planning ordinances or deed restriction enforcement could be better used to protect neighborhoods while still maintaining Houston’s development-friendly environment.
Her inauguration will be at Discovery Green on Jan. 4, she said.